Starting up a Cajun meat manufacturer in the Dallas, TX area
So I'm sure I'm going to wear you people out with questions, but when it comes to knowing the ropes of smoking product and selling, I figured this would be the place.
My business partner and I are looking to turn our hobby into a business venture. We have outlined our costs, vendors, what licenses we need, what equipment we would need for large production (100-200lb batches), and we have some places we are stumped due to our inexperience.
First thing would be to explain our goals and what we have:
1. To bring high quality cajun meat to the DFW area
2. We would like to start with selling to cajun/regular meat markets, and restaurants. Later on in life (1yr? 5yr?) we would like to be a retail shop with a 40 hr a week or more business hours.
3. So far it is only my partner and myself. We will be doing all of the labor
4. We need to find a kitchen for rent. Converting any part of either of our homes is out of the question.
5. We both have 40hr/week jobs, and unless something insane happens with this venture, never plan on quitting our jobs.
6. Our products to start off with will be fresh cajun sausage (beef/pork mix), smoked cajun sausage, and Andouille. ....maybe some tasso as well.
So here I go with my questions:
1. Rental kitchen: Since we need a rental kitchen, if we were doing cakes/baking or fresh sausage, any kitchen would do. But in this case, as so many other on this forum, we have to smoke it too. Which makes the insurance go up heavily, and limits the hourly kitchens we can do business with. So far there is only one hourly kitchen in the DFW which is a good 30-40 minute drive for both of us that has a smoker. Only problem is it is a Cookshack 150 Electric Smoker which apparently can only do about 50 lbs of brisket.. so I'm not sure how to gauge how much sausage I can hang in it. The owner, and owners of other hourly kitchen rentals have said they would allow us to bring our own smoker and smoke it in the back. This sounds great, but due to us trying to minimize the startup costs, spending 3000+ for a smoker/trailer would be pretty rough on the pocketbook. So the question is.. am I missing something? Assuming the Cookshack 150 smoked as well as my Lyfetime grill/smoker (which I still have doubts about), is paying 18$ an hour for a kitchen worth it before we even know if we have customers? I would estimate a 100lb batch would probably take about 6 hours to grind/mix and stuff, and another 6 hours to smoke (but prices would be different since we are not really using the "kitchen" for that 6 hours.
Should we make it the same way we have been making it, and bring it to restaurants? Which would mean we don't have an official "HD legal" kitchen space until we have commitments to buy? Or is that playing it "too" safe?
2) What should our profit margin be? I know that is hard to answer without knowing more, but we figured we could make each lb of sausage (ex. andouille) for ~3.50. Currently, you can buy andouille from these meat markets for 5.50 a lb. That is retail prices, not what THEY are buying it for. I figure we could sell our sausage for no less than 6$ a lb, BUT.. I as well as many other people in the area I know that have tasted our product would gladly pay up to 10$ a lb just to have the quality that we produce. When you look at places in LaPlace, LA (the mecca of Cajun meat markets), people are charging 7-8$ a lb for REAL andouille. I personally believe our product is identical to the products back home (New Orleans for me, LaPlace for my partner).
3. How do you suppose we package our product? IF we were retail, and had a store front, I would assume shrink wrap cryo freezer style plastic wrap, with our label, ingredients, price...etc. Selling to just restaurants? Is butcher paper and a string a bad thought here? Would they even WANT to freeze and then thaw?
I guess I will start off with just that and see how many people have ideas.